Crumbling houses: company says it recognises ‘torment’ of homeowners

A local firm which supplied concrete blocks used in thousands of houses across the NW says it recognises the “stress and torment” endured by homeowners affected by disintegrating blockwork.

Cassidy Brothers have spoken publicly for the first time since the issue of crumbling homes hit the headlines some years ago.

It’s been reported that thousands of homes in Donegal - mainly located in the Inishowen and Letterkenny - have been built with blocks contaminated with a substance called Mica; these properties are now literally crumbling to dust, leaving houses facing inevitable collapse.

Cassidy Brothers, based in Buncrana, says it fully recognises the “genuine hardships” suffered by people in Donegal whose properties are affected by damage to block work.

A spokesperson for the company said: “We have listened intently to the sobering stories of families who have had to endure the stress of deterioration in their homes through no fault of their own. We have sincere sympathy for those whose properties have been affected.”

The company, once north Donegal’s largest masonry block supplier, also expressed regret that its silence on the matter may have caused further distress.

“We apologise for not offering comment sooner due to constraints imposed as a result of a legal action. However, we feel now that there is a greater importance to be placed on acknowledging the torment of the people affected.

“We wholeheartedly back homeowners in their calls for the implementation of an appropriate government remediation scheme as soon as possible. They are to be commended for their continued and hard-fought campaign for redress.”

The company said it also accepted that homes exhibiting problems in Donegal were built using blocks purchased from a number of suppliers.

“We further acknowledge that similar problems in blockwork have been identified in other areas of Ireland where aggregate types used contain completely different rock constituents.”

Cassidy Brothers said it took issue with what it described as “misinformation” reported via social and mainstream media which, it claimed, has had a serious impact on its 75-years-old family-run business.

Its statement continued: “Inaccurate reporting and commentary continues to take its toll, most notably on our hard-working and dedicated employees. The continued circulation of misinformation jeopardises the very future of Cassidy Bros. as a large-scale, local employer in Donegal.

“Investigations have confirmed that Cassidy Bros.’ masonry blocks - tested at the point of manufacture - have at all times, past and present, complied with all relevant government standards, regulations and specifications.

“Cassidy Bros. is a local, family-owned and run business which has been a proud part of the north Donegal community for generations. These issues were never envisaged by block manufacturers nor, indeed, reflected in the industry standards set down by the government.”

The firm said it “welcomed and embraced” the recent introduction of regulations for increased block strength in line with expert recommendations.

“We further welcome that local architects are now specifying the use of blocks which are 2.6 times stronger than the previous government standard and that experts are recommending the use of a render type which is appropriate for Donegal weather conditions.”

It’s understood a number of recommendations, resulting from investigations by leading independent experts in concrete technology and geology, were last month included in a public consultation submission by Cassidy Bros. to the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI). The submission regarded the standard protocol (I.S. 465:201x) for the assessment, testing and categorisation of the damaged buildings in Donegal and elsewhere.

“The submission represented the first opportunity for Cassidy Bros to contribute to the important process of providing concerned homeowners with evidenced-based reasons for deterioration in their properties,” said the firm’s statement. “We felt it was appropriate to follow up on the submission to the NSAI with this public statement.

“We believe establishing the facts by using appropriate scientific methods and adequate testing recommended by leading experts will allow for the establishment of a full and fair assessment of the damage to homes in Donegal.”